I was lucky to be asked to help plant two trees this weekend as a part of Concord's mission to plant 1,000 trees. With the help of some wonderful high school students, Master Gardener friends, and my enthusiastic city councilor, Stacey Brown, there are now two new Serviceberry trees on the Concord High School campus. These trees will be the cornerstones of a new pollinator garden, which we will plant in the coming week.
As we were planting, we were talking about trees and the many benefits they give to people and wildlife, including shade, carbon sequestration, and habitat. Why don't people plant more trees? Personally, I used to be intimated by the idea of planting trees, but I have since learned how easy it is and I want to encourage everyone to start planting!
Follow these seven steps and you will soon have a beautiful tree to call your own. This whole process can be done in an afternoon and will provide you with a lifetime of benefits!
Our serviceberry trees arriving from Black Forest Nursery in Boscawen, NH. We chose serviceberry trees for this project because they provide early nectar for pollinator species, berries for birds, aren't too tall, and are beautiful all through the growing season.
STEP ONE: Select a Tree
Your local nursery will have many wonderful trees to choose from and it might be intimidating to make a selection, but you can quickly narrow it down by asking yourself three questions:
How big a tree do I want/need? Trees vary greatly in size and coming to the nursery with a maximum and minimum height will help a lot.
What is the purpose of the tree? Are you hoping the tree will provide shade? Habitat for native species? A windbreak? Fall color? Fruit or nuts? A living Christmas tree? Think about what you would like from your tree and take notes.
What are the conditions like where I want to plant my tree? Will your tree be in a hot, dry spot or a wet, shady spot? Will your tree be planted in a group of trees or alone? These questions will help narrow down your choices.
*** An important note about tree selection: Trees that are native to our region will grow better, needs less water, and provide valuable habitat and food for our native animals and pollinator species. Always choose a native plant unless you have a very specific reason not to!***
STEP TWO: Dig a (BIG) Hole
Once you have your tree you will see the size of the rootball or pot that is comes in. This will help you decide how large to dig your hole. The rule of thumb is to dig a hole that is as deep as the pot or rootball and preferably two to three times wider. This will give your tree plenty of room to spread out its roots. This step takes awhile, but it is very, very worth it in the long run. Save your soil right next to the hole. You'll need it again soon.
If you don't have good soil, fill the bottom of your hole with about an inch of compost to get your tree started.
STEP THREE: Prepare your Tree for Planting
Before placing your tree in the hole, gently ease it out of the pot and check to see if it is "root bound". A root bound tree will have roots encircling the pot. This is not a big problem as long as the roots are small. Gently work the visible roots away from the soil with your fingers or a knife, if necessary. Youtube will be happy to teach you how to do this, if you are nervous about it. :)
STEP FOUR: Place your Tree in the Hole
This step will probably take two people. Once you have lowered your tree into it's new home, ask someone else to walk around the tree and make sure it is straight from all angles. You may need to use some soil to boost one side or another until you get it straight. Fill in soil around the tree until the hole is about two-thirds full.
STEP FIVE: Water
Add a good amount of water to the hole. Stop when there is about an inch or so of water sitting in the hole. Let it soak in. Do that two more times. This will help the tree settle and get rid of any big air pockets.
STEP SIX: Finish Planting the Tree
Fill the hole up with soil until it is about an inch below the height of the rootball. Then add an inch of compost to the top. Finish by creating a circular mound around the outside of your hole about two inches high. This will help guide the water downwards instead of outwards. Next, add a good layer of mulch around the tree, but leave three inches around the trunk of the tree. Mulch will help keep the soil around the tree moist and cool, but mulch right next to the trunk can breed disease.
STEP SEVEN: Water. Repeat.
Now give your tree a really good soaking. Like all plants, trees prefer to be watered deeply. A newly planted tree will want to be watered every other day for a couple weeks and then once a week until the end of the summer. At that point, you will probably not need to water your tree again unless there is a big drought.
MAINTENANCE: A yearly mulching will do wonders for your tree. Lay mulch 3 inches deep, 3 inches from the trunk of the tree, and 3 feet wide. I'm not going to go into pruning here, but the nursery will give you lots of information about the tree you choose, including when and how to prune it, if necessary.
I sincerely hope you will consider planting a tree this summer or fall and every year to come. Together we can make a happier, healthier, more beautiful New Hampshire.
Stay Green, New Hampshire!